Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A post about language by Caitlyn

Caitlyn F
Blog Post 1

Staying for an extended period of time in a country knowing next to none of the language is quite an experience. It’s frustrating mostly, and often sort of embarrassing (i.e. having to play the charades game) For an English speaker, and probably any speaker of an Indo-European language, Chinese is intimidating all around—writing, reading, sentence structure, and especially pronunciation. Unlike the relationship between Spanish and English, for example, Chinese has absolutely nothing in common with English. According to my limited knowledge, they’re hardly distant cousins.

I’ve noticed that compared to Chinese, English seems to be a “big mouth” language, while making Mandarin sounds accurately requires smaller mouth or vocal movements; more finesse to get words out. It’s probably no picnic for a native speaker of Chinese to speak English and adjust their tongue either. But lots of them do. I always feel somewhat guilty when someone helps us here in broken English and I can’t even speak an intelligible sentence in Chinese.

Most writing on signs, menus, and so forth is written in Chinese with English underneath (thankfully). Several I’ve seen have also had entertaining translations or errors, due to the aforementioned fact that the transition between in the two languages is incredibly difficult. Still, they’re amusing—in the hotel, a sign says “In case of firf, please do not use elevator,” a cup of coffee personified on it’s warning label “Caution I’m Hot,” corn is “steams the maize,” pork is occasionally “steams the sausage,” or my personal favorite thus far, “No smoking I will crazy.”

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